JERUSALEM, Feb. 27 -- Jerusalem Police Commander Arye Amit said Tuesday he believed an Arab-American who was gunned down moments after ramming into a crowd of Israelis had intended to kill the Jews. The evidence indicated the car driven by Ahmed Abdel Hamideh, 37, did not skid accidentally, Amit told United Press International. It was Monday afternoon when Hamideh's rented black Fiat Uno careened into a crowd of Israelis standing at a junction near the Jerusalem- Ramallah highway, killing a 29-year old woman and wounding 22 people. Hamideh got out of the car and three armed Israelis fatally shot him. Hafez Barghoutti, editor of the Palestinian newspaper Al Hayatt al- Jedida, quoted U.S. acquaintances as saying Hamideh was a drug addict. Residents from Hamideh's home village told Barghoutti that Hamideh said they would be seeing him that evening on television. Security forces immediately sealed off the area and called in demolition experts, fearing Hamideh was driving a car bomb. Police originally thought skid marks on the road proved Hamideh had slammed the brakes before the collision, suggesting the collision was an accident and not a premeditated attack. Israeli commentators initially suggested the subsequent shooting reflected local nervousness after Sunday's suicide attacks in Jerusalem and Ashkelon that killed 27 people, including two Americans and a French woman. Internal Minister Moshe Shahal said Hamideh's speed and route suggested he 'used a lot of power.' Investigators also reenacted the incident at the junction to check the car's brakes, with firemen spraying water on the road to duplicate the rainy conditions at the time.
Amit said the tests proved the car left the skid marks from the driver swerving, not from applying the brakes. Hamideh was born in the West Bank village of Mazraat a-Sharkiya and moved to the United States 15 years ago. He acquired U.S. citizenship and owned a grocery store in Los Angeles in partnership with his brother. He subsequently divorced, left his 12-years old daughter with his wife and returned to the West Bank in July saying he wanted a change, relatives said. Police said Hamideh was a drug addict who turned devoutly religious. They found an Islamic extremist leaflet in his car, though it did not refer to Monday's incident, Amit said. Hamideh's relatives declined to confirm his drug addiction, but villages reported he had been in a mental hospital in the United States. Hamideh called upon Barghoutti last week-end, showed him newspaper items he had picked up in the street and asked the editor to stop printing verses of the Koran. People throw away the newspaper, others unknowingly step on it and desecrate it, he explained. 'I was sick and after being cured I devoted my life to God,' Hamideh reportedly told the editor. Police briefed U.S. Consulate officials in Jerusalem on their investigation but diplomats would not comment on the findings.